The Ks are here! The Ks are here! The 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray format officially launches this week. If that doesn’t interest you, don’t worry. Regular Blu-ray gets some noteworthy releases too.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Creed‘ – I’m writing this post in advance of Sunday’s Oscar ceremony, but I assume that Sylvester Stallone won the Supporting Actor trophy for reprising his iconic Rocky Balboa character in the franchise spinoff about the son of his former friend/opponent Apollo Creed. [Edit: Nope.] Yes, it’s a movie written by, directed by, and starring mostly black people, and the one white guy in the cast gets an Oscar nomination. That’s Hollywood for you. I’ve never been particularly big on the ‘Rocky’ series, but I’ve heard good things about this one. I’m curious to see it. Still, I have to wonder what any ‘Rocky’ movie could possibly do that the previous six entries (not to mention countless knockoffs) haven’t already covered.
‘Room‘ – A lot of sources called Brie Larson a frontrunner in the Best Actress race. Did that work out for her? [Edit: Yup.] The indie drama about a young woman who was kidnapped and molested, and forced to raise a son (the product of her abuse) while trapped in a single room for years, certainly sounds like meaty material. I’ve heard nothing but rapturous praise for Larson’s performance, but a few mixed things about the movie as a whole.
‘The Danish Girl‘ – Last year’s Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne plays a transgendered woman in a 1920s period piece from ‘The King’s Speech’ director Tom Hooper. While the subject matter sure was timely in the year of Caitlin Jenner, and I’m sure the Oscar voters all patted themselves on the backs for being so progressive when they nominated Redmayne again, the flagrant awards-baiting of the piece is really hard to take. Frankly, I don’t know anyone who saw this movie and liked it.
‘The Night Before‘ – Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and their ‘50/50‘ director Jonathan Levine reunite for a raunchy R-rated comedy about a group of childhood friends who attempt to have one last night of debauchery and drunken excess on Christmas Eve before settling into adulthood and commitment. Trailers for the movie looked like a holiday-themed retread of Rogen’s ‘Neighbors’. Reviews were tepid and the box office weak.
‘Legend‘ – It’s a pet peeve of mine when movies recycle the titles of other famous but unrelated movies. This ‘Legend’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the 1985 Ridley Scott/Tom Cruise fantasy epic. Could writer-director Brian Helgeland really not think of anything else to call his bio-pic about the notorious Kray brothers, the identical twins who ruled the London gangster underworld through most of the 1960s? Peter Medak already made a pretty damn good movie on this subject (‘The Krays’) back in 1990 starring actual brothers (though not twins) Gary and Martin Kemp. Helgeland’s big stunt was to let Tom Hardy play both roles through some elaborate visual effect compositing. Most critics were underwhelmed with the results and the movie performed poorly at the box office.
‘The Boy‘ – Speaking of movies with recycled or generic titles, I started this post assuming that this was the recent horror flick about Lauren Cohan and an evil doll. Turns out it’s a totally different recent horror flick about Rainn Wilson and a sociopathic kid. I’m not sure which sounds worse.
‘Youth‘ – Paolo Sorrentino won a Foreign Language Film Oscar (and scored a spot in the Criterion Collection) for ‘The Great Beauty‘, his riff on Fellini’s ‘La dolce vita’. For his follow-up, Sorrentino riffs on Fellini’s ‘8 ½’, but this time in English with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel. In doing so, he made a lot of people who had praised his last film rethink that opinion.
As mentioned, the unwieldily named Ultra HD Blu-ray format officially rolls out this week (some discs may have slipped out to retail and wound up in people’s hands a little early) with a number of titles from Fox, Sony, Warner Bros. and Lionsgate. Thanks to the hard work of our early adopters Michael S. Palmer and M. Enois Duarte, our site has reviews of several of those discs published already with more in the works.
As tends to happen every time a new video format gets off the ground, the studios have chosen to populate their launch waves with mostly crap titles that nobody would want to buy if they weren’t desperate for demo material to try out on their new hardware. Don’t fall for it. No matter how eager you are for content, you will eventually regret buying ‘Hancock’ or ‘The Smurfs 2’.
Fortunately, mixed in with this batch are a handful of movies that you may not feel guilty about purchasing, such as: ‘Sicario‘, ‘The Martian‘, ‘The Lego Movie‘, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past‘, ‘Life of Pi‘, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service ‘ or ‘Mad Max: Fury Road‘. Of course, as I explained in a recent article, most of these are really 2k movies that have been upconverted to 4k. However, they should still benefit from new High Dynamic Range color and contrast grading. Some of them will also have immersive Dolby Atmos audio – though not any of the discs from Fox.
Most weeks, the catalog titles on Blu-ray are more interesting than the new day-and-date releases. Not so much this week. About the only title of note is the goofy cult classic comedy ‘Strange Brew‘.
TV collections this week include the fourth season of Cinemax’s ‘Strike Back‘, both seasons of the British crime thriller ‘The Fall‘, and Syfy’s misbegotten miniseries adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘Childhood’s End‘.
I’m ambivalent toward Ultra HD and will be sitting out the new format launch for a bit. On regular Blu-ray, I’d like to check out ‘Creed’ and ‘Room’.
What do you plan to do this week?